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Crackdown sought on illegal tree felling in Swat – Newspaper

PESHAWAR: The civil society activists have complained about the illegal felling of ancient deodar trees in Swat district by timber smugglers and demanded an immediate crackdown on it.

They accused the forest officials and law-enforcement agencies of being involved in the massive deforestation in Kalam, Bahrain and Kumrat and adjoining regions and warned if the illegal tree felling didn’t stop, then that ‘paradise on earth’ would turn into a wasteland.

The civil society activists said the Sarhad Conservation Network’s members recently visited Banr forest near the Mahodand Lake and took images of the felled trees and those marked for felling.

According to a statement jointly issued by the Sarhad Conservation Network, the National Heritage Council, the Institute of Architects of Pakistan, Karwan Tanzeem, and Idarae Barai Taleem-o-Taraqi, Bahrain, hundreds of trees have been chopped down and burnt, while trunks of many have been slashed in the middle.

Civil society activists warn ‘paradise on earth’ will become wasteland if deforestation continues

The trees marked for felling have their barks removed and branches peeled off to kill them, or make their trunks hollow; even burning roots so that it falls and can be easily cut to pieces.

The locals affirmed to the conservationists that the felling of trees mostly took place after midnight, involving local and outsider timber mafia.

Activist and journalist from Swat Fazal Khaliq reported widespread destruction in almost alldense forests of Kalam region, including Banr, Bouyn, Anakar, Ushu, Matiltan, Jalbarn, Jabral and Utror, and said Lal Koh forest in Matta tehsil, home of the incumbent CM, was also facing illegal felling.

He complained that the government was involved in creating expensive media hypes about afforestation like Billion Tree Tsunami programme but actually, the protection of huge forests on ground was forsaken.

The activist said the universally-condemned eucalyptus species was being planted in hilly areas to show forest cover on GIS though the activity would irreversibly damage the ecology of the entire region in the long run.

“As a first step to check deforestation, the government should hire enough guards with proper monitoring system and protection. The local forest communities comprising young, educated and clean individuals should be activated. Regular patrolling should be conducted by forest officials to monitor illegal activities and above all, an effective mechanism should be in place to monitor the nighttime illegal tree felling and smuggling,” he said.

Mr Khaliq said the government should develop satellite monitoring to save forests and thus, saving environment.

He wondered why billions of rupees were spent on plantation media hypes while ignoring ‘facts on ground’.

The activist said the government had made tall claims about the Billion Tree Tsunami programme but it had failed to introduce a transparent monitoring system to check illegal felling and transportation of the centuries old trees.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019

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